Monday, April 11, 2011

So, farewell then...

Ned's - the cosy little Nanluoguxiang bar named after famous Australian bushranger Ned Kelly - has closed its doors, after a little less than three years. I'm rather regretful that I didn't visit more often over the past year or two. I've always had a soft spot for it, and had been quite a regular when it first opened; but latterly I'd found it just couldn't compete for my affections with the likes of 12 Square Metres, Amilal, and El Nido... and the Pool Bar. The main problem, I think, was that it always seemed to be either deserted or packed out with raucous Aussie sports fans; it rarely achieved that happy medium of having just a handful of punters with whom one might enjoy a friendly chat. Nevertheless, I'm sorry to see it go. They had a wild closing-down party on Friday, with a 100 kuai all-you-can-drink deal to clear out the stock. Things got a little rowdy, naturally, with a large crowd spilling out on to the street - a fitting send-off.

Apparently, the new tenant is a moneychanger - such is 'progress' in the hutongs!

Bars on NLGX are thinning out; snack stalls and little boutiques selling scarves and knick-knacks are perceived to be where the money is now (although I'm relieved to see that small restaurants are making a bit of a comeback). The 10 Kuai Bar and the nameless Salud-clone next to Salud have both gone, redeveloped into much more upscale - but largely customerless - bars. The Guitar Bar has been replaced by a snack stall. Ned's is to become a bureau de change. And the bizarrely named July's looks to have shut its doors as well. Astonishingly, though, the indescribably awful Wiggly Jiggly's and the outrageously up itself Backwards Bar still soldier on; Backwards, indeed, appears to be one of the more successful ventures on the street - its high prices evidently appeal to the conspicuous consumer (of which China has rather a lot). Ain't no justice.

In other news.... I hear the All-Star Bar & Grill has closed. Presumably this means that the frightful "hip-hop nightclub" Bling, of which it was an adjunct, is also demised. All-Star made a half-arsed effort to pitch itself as a sports bar (something for which there is definitely an opening in Beijing!) but was really just an American-style diner. It was reputed to have rather good food, but its high prices and its location in the kiss-of-death Solana mall doomed it. I wandered by a half a dozen or so times last year - usually early on a Sunday evening, when you'd expect them to be doing quite well - and never saw a single soul in there. I recall a commenter on my 'Dead Pool' post predicted its certain failure two years ago. It's amazing how some of these places manage to hang on for so long. The egregiously dreadful Danger Doyle's and its criminally overpriced sibling Drei Kronen obstinately persevere as customer-free zones; as do the trio of awful little Chinese-run bars on that street round the back of Sanlitun SOHO, La Fite, Looking, and Camel Bar. Surely they'll have to close eventually??

The most surprising recent development on the bar scene, though, is the apparent closure of The Mexican Wave. It was a pretty awful bar, with so-so Tex-Mex food, and severely overpriced, but... it did pretty good business by virtue of its prominent location just up the road from the Silk Street market, and simply because it had been around for so long - getting on for two decades? The affluent mix of tourists and old-stagers it attracted seemed ample to keep it going indefinitely. I wonder what happened there??

I wonder which of our under-performing bars is going to give up the ghost next? Any suggestions?

Go and leave a comment at The 'Dead Pool' if you know a bar that deserves to fail...


The Weeble said...

Ned Kelly's had two flaws: (1) Being open, apparently, only whenever the owners felt like it, which was like once a week, and (2) being full of Australians and selling VB, which is frankly a shite beer and I will never understand the following it seems to have.

And I guess there's also (3) being on Nan Luogu Xiang, which at this point should be written off and left to the Chinese yuppies, the rich college kids with their DSLRs taking pictures in front of every lamppost, and the tourists. Let it burn, I say, let the cleansing fire pour from bar to bar. Preferably with the patrons in.

Froog said...

You're still bitter about the Sandglass affair, aren't you?

Your scorn for the yuppification of the area is, I imagine, based largely on hearsay and speculation - since you never come out any more, and never set foot on NLGX even when you do.

The proliferation of naff boutiques, and the gaggles of gawping youngsters they seem to attract, is certainly unwelcome; but the street is still home to three of the best bars in the city - Reef, Salud, and 12 Square Metres - and a few decent cafes and restaurants too.

Yes, the whole city's been going to shit over the last 5 years - but NLGX is still way better than Gongti or Sanlitun.